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It took decades to write this

REFLECTIONS ON A WONDROUS JOURNEY FROM RURAL GEORGIA

By ART CHANCE

On Jan. 1, 2020, I enter my ninth decade on this rock. Depending on how you count it, it could be called the last year of my eighth — remember all the controversy about when the new millennium started?   Anyway, I have the “three score and ten” I was promised. 

A decade ago I was a front page contributor on the Red State conservative political blog, one of the most heavily viewed conservative blogs.  

Art Chance
Art Chance

I wrote this around my 60 birthday and it stayed on the front page of Red State for a good while. I’m resurrecting it because another decade has passed and the world has changed. We endured Comrade Obama. We entered Donald Trump’s world.  We survived George Soros’ attempt to continue the coup d’etat that installed Comrade Obama. 

I can’t see what will happen next; but the Left has taken our children.  If you’re under about 40, you see AOC as the future. That’s a future I’m happy to miss, but I regret that my children and grandchildren will have to deal with it. I’ll secretly tell them where I “lost” my guns.  A decade ago, I was fairly optimistic; these days, not so much.

Three Score Years Ago, My Parents Brought Forth – Me

Sept. 3, 1949: 10 years after Germany invaded Poland, a little less than four years after the war ended, the same year the hydrogen bomb was invented.  The H-bomb and I had a good run together. I came into the world dirt poor but I didn’t know it for a long time.  In rural Georgia in those days heritage and social status meant a lot more than material wealth. 

Those with ostentatious wealth got it after the war from the cotton lands they bought from widows and from the timber boom of the 1890s; being able to rattle off what company and regiment in General Lee’s Army your grandfather or great-grandfather served in meant a whole lot more for your social status.  That all changed when the Yankees came again.

Rural Georgia of the 1950s was differentiated from rural Georgia of the 1850s by gasoline and electricity, and nobody had much of either. I saw some pretty good arguments between my mother and father over whether it was necessary for the single 30-watt light bulb in the living room to be on.  The only really ugly fight I ever remember them having was over the fact that my father simply could not comprehend how she could have managed to spend $12 for her weekly trip to the grocery store. 

Generally, if we didn’t grow it or kill it, we didn’t have it; the grocery store was for stuff like sugar, coffee, tea, flour, and meal, though we often had our own meal ground.  Doc and Betty, the mule and the horse, did the heavy work until we finally got a tractor in 1954 – a Farmall Cub.  My grandfather did most of the farming and my dad helped, but also worked for wages at Rosenberg’s department store in town.  Old Martin, who lived across the branch in Price’s Quarter, did most of the handyman work and after my grandfather was probably my greatest youthful influence. 

Blacks did not come in through the front door or eat with whites except in the fields in those days, so in an irony not lost on me even in my youth, Old Martin always came in through the back door and ate dinner – the meal in the middle of the day – in the fairly fancy dining room, while we ate at the kitchen table.  Like the medieval world described in Manchester’s “A World Lit Only By Fire,” thus it was and thus it shall ever be; Southern farming life was eternal and unchanging – or so they thought.

In some ways it was an idyllic world; nothing changed, everyone knew everyone, people lived all right as we understood all right to be.  If you didn’t know any better, it was good. We were cultured and well-educated; I knew which fork to use. My great grandfather was a teacher. My grandfather and father had some college. My grandmother was also a teacher. She could speak, read, and write Latin and read Greek. She told me that if I couldn’t do that, I’d always be a barbarian; she was right. She could rattle off long passages of Caesar’s Gallic Wars in Latin or whole Acts of Shakespeare’s plays.  The skill that has served me best professionally is my ability to memorize and I attribute it to her constantly demanding it of me and to the Sunday School ritual of always having to recite a Bible verse at the beginning. “Jesus Wept” was my best friend.

That said, they and thus I were abysmally ignorant of the world. I don’t mean we didn’t know what was going on. My earliest memory of anything political – one of my earliest memories of anything – was sitting with my grandfather and father listening to the Republican convention on the old tube-type radio in 1952. I don’t remember anything about it except the doing of it; just my grandfather, my father, and me sitting in the kitchen in the dark – no need to waste electricity – and the reason it is memorable is they included me.

By the time I started grade school, leaders in the South were doing everything they could to get Southerners off the north end of southbound mules. In my little town, we started to get “plants.”  Plants that don’t grow out of the ground were pretty much a foreign concept in the rural South, as was being anywhere other than school, church or court at a particular time.  Getting a Geogia farm boy to actually show up at eight o’clock every day and do what somebody not related to him told him to do was a major cultural transition. And that’s when we began to see it.  The Yankee plant managers demanded their modern houses. They drove new cars and their wives had station wagons. 

In about 1958 we got a TV, and everything it changed. Nobody I knew lived like Beaver and Wally or David and Mary Stone. Fast forward through it all; Kennedy’s assassination, the civil rights movement, the riots, the long, hot summers, the Klan, the Freedom Riders, having a dream, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the war in Vietnam. 

The world I started grade school in in 1955 had ceased to exist by the time I heard “Pomp and Circumstance” in 1967.  By the time the principal thrust that piece of paper in my drunken hand, I didn’t believe a single word coming from parent, pulpit, lectern, or stump.  When I got to college, I was a Marxist professor’s dream; I’d believe anything that was contrary to what I’d been brought up to believe.  So, by the early 1970s I was a long-haired, dope-smoking, FM radio-listening liberal Democrat.  Then I got mugged.

Atlanta in the early ’70s taught me all I needed to know about liberal policies.  I sold out and packed Wife 1.0, kid, and dog into a Toyota LandCruiser and struck out for Alaska.  I had no airspeed or altitude, but I did have ideas.  I’ve sold suits, cleaned floors, drove trucks, and most anything else I could find to make money. What I liked most about Alaska was that nobody asked what your daddy did and if they asked where you went to school, they didn’t follow up with a question about what fraternity you belonged to. Hell, I was barely willing to admit to belonging to the human race; belong to a fraternity?

Anyway, I’ve led a charmed life, lived the American dream.  I have a God-given right to be working for the minimum wage in the lawnmower factory in Swainsboro, Georgia; that’s what any of my teachers and civic leaders would have told me I could look forward to – and they were proud of their accomplishment of making that possible. There was always farming.

In those 60 years that also parallel the Pax Americana, I’ve never been hurt badly except by my own doing, I’ve never been sick since childhood, I’ve never really wanted for anything that I actually needed. As someone said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; rich is better.” 

But in this Country, even poor as most of us understand it ain’t bad. I know the worst off I’ve ever been is scrounging the sofa cushions for cigarette money.  And now, I’ve even given up the cigarettes after 40 years of Winstons and Marlboros; probably too late, but at least I did it.

So, to sum this up; generations of my forebears dug up the dirt to make my life possible.  My life has been beyond the wildest imaginings of my forebears. Their efforts and sacrifices made a life of money, power, and relative luxury possible for me. And to bring this back to a political theme, ain’t nobody taking that away from me unless they’re prepared to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

I don’t know how this plays out; maybe the stupid children win, maybe not.   I tried to leave a better world to my kids; don’t know if I succeeded. When this decade ends, not many of us will be around. None of my male ancestors made it into their Eighties.  I’ve had far better medical care than they did, but I also smoked cigarettes for 40 years and drank a lot of Scotch whiskey.   We’ll see if there is another decade to write about.

Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. 

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  • Happy new year, Art. May you have another decade of great health despite the cigarettes and Scotch. I enjoy your writing. Keep it up!CA

    • Another one out of the park, Art. MRAK seems to have no limits on great talent for authorship. Suzanne and you……. rock.

  • Thanks Art

  • From one Art to another – great piece. My start was Nov 6, 1951 in Anchorage, directly above the current Benihana, where the maternity ward was located. My Dad made concrete blocks for Concrete Products, which was acquired by Martin Marietta. We built our first real house out of blocks overlooking Potter Marsh and I learned to mix mud at a very young age and learned to skate on the marsh. When the State built the new Seward Highway it went straight through that property and those traveling South today drive over my childhood. Almost everything we are witnessing today is indeed summed up by AOC, because we somehow surrendered education to the left. Even though I graduated a year after Woodstock, at Lathrop High School in Fairbanks with pretty left leaning teachers, we were still taught history and economics. Our study included the – at that time – six year reign of Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and how it was already proving a disaster for his people. We also learned of the original failure of Jamestown and Plymouth, which were founded on socialism, almost destroyed in the process, and only saved by the institution of private property rights. I doubt that AOC’s education even included such studies.

    • Art Hackney……wasn’t your dad also a Presbyterian minister in Fairbanks? I know he served in the State Senate back in the 1980’s. Very scrupulous legislator. I worked in Juneau back then as a young aide, and he once told me that Steve Cowper tried to bribe him. ????? Good for your dad to turn down a crooked Democrat.

  • Art that was perfect thank you so much for sharing that with us! As I read thru I could glimpse my own parents in the 50’s raising my brothers way before I came along in 66. Your life is a true piece of Americana you should be very proud of! Thanks again, Happy New Year!

  • Happy Birthday to Art Chance! I value your writing! You are MY historian! Wish I’d printed all you have written for MRAK.

    • Most of my work is still archived here. You have to dig through all of “Columns” but I know much of it is still here. Thank you for the kind words.

  • Happy New Year Art and Thanks for putting this piece together as we all spend some time reflecting how we got where we are and to whom we owe so much on the way here.
    This past October 4th I made it 85 years and with the help of the Lord and a few doctors I still manage to get to work everyday and today I am looking forward to the next decade as well…I did not get to Alaska until December of 61 and have enjoyed almost everyday of my life here. There have been a lot more ups than downs along the way and over the years have had the best of the best in the way of employee’s and sure would have done a few things different if I could do them over again but that is all water over the dam now so I am excited about the 20’s ….have no idea if I will see the 30’s but will go it it day by day and see what happens…

  • Hey Art,
    Happy New Year!
    I could substitute my name and almost this entire article would apply to me. “Up the road” a bit from you, 20 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina on a red dirt tobacco farm. I had one uncle who was a Republican. He was held in contempt by all my relatives and neighbors to the point of banishment. I talked to and visited him as I got older and determined that, other than my Mom, he was the only person who “got it”. I never voted for a democrat my whole life though I probably would have opted for Harry Truman or Sam Nunn if pressed. I graduated from UNC (don’t hold it against me) in 1966, spent 8 years in Minnesota and arrived here in 1974. How fortunate to live in this beautiful country and have the experiences I have had. Your contributions are always enjoyed on Must Read. This one was especially pleasant and brought back fond memories. 2020 is going to be a great year. Cheers, Will.

  • BTW I met Charlie Bussell in 1974, my first year in Alaska. I was working for Bill Elim, of Honeywell Inc. Pipeline construction was going full bore. I later ran into him at the Wiohai hotel (locals called it the Why -So -High) on Kauai.. Charlie probably remains a voracious reader. I liked him because it was obvious he was bright but kind. He also was not afraid to get his hands dirty even after his success. Hard work keeps you grounded. Keep truckin Charlie. All the best. 2020 is going to be a good year.! Will

  • Art, if you were born in 1949, which meshes well with beginning grade school in 1955 and graduating high school “on schedule” in 1967, you have a ways to go to get to your “ninth decade on this rock!”

    Happy birthday anyway and many more. It takes all kinds.

    • Jere, please count the decades, begin with the year of Art’s birth, 1949, (40’s), 40’s 50’s 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s 00’s 10’s 20’s… equals nine, (9).
      Yes it takes all kinds, except in mathematics!
      Happy New Year!

      • Older, Art didn’t claim – to have lived during eight + decades of the earth’s age. If he had you’d be correct.
        He claimed “I enter my ninth decade on this rock.”
        Art’s first decade “on this rock” began with his birth, at some time of day he did not specify on Sept 3, 1949. It ended when ten years passed – at the end of day on Sept 2, 1959. (By convention in our culture we ignore the precision of specifying hour, minute and second of birth.) His next birthday, Sept 3, 1959, started his second decade “on this rock.” You do the counting. His ninth decade will begin when his 79th year ends and he turns 80. Been there, done that, LOL.
        Actually, the math is clear – its the language that is fuzzy at best and is getting cloudier and cloudier.
        A little while ago there was a piece here* in which Suzanne stated “Petersburg has a crime rate that is 1.5 times lower than the national average.” In a comment I asked ‘What does “1.5 times lower than” mean? Show me the math.’ No one answered. Can you?
        A few days ago I heard a radio interview with another “journalist” concerning voter disenfranchisement by the law on voter registration in Georgia. The law requires registration at least 30 days BEFORE an election
        to be eligible to vote in said election. He referred to that as requiring registration “within 30 days of the election.”
        Our language is being turned into senseless babbling.
        Happy New Year to you too.

        • Well, at least someone here is good at math. The “living in ‘parts” of decades is about as lame as one can get. It’s kinda like, “I’ve lived in Alaska since the last mammoth died!” Being a septuagenarian myself, I find these sorts of fossilized ruminations only amusing. AND your observation was identical to mine. With any luck this will inspire Arty’s micron thin skin to cause him to rail on in comments. He’s like a frog; shine the light and he’s gigged…

    • And here you tried so hard, Jere, to be a smartass.

      • No Art, just precise.

        • And, Art, I got that need for precision from my formal education in Georgia.

        • No, genius, I’ve now lived in some parts of nine decades; your fingers can handle the math.

          • Now, Art, you should have said that in the first place – “Smartass.”

            You’ll enter your “ninth decade on this rock” when you turn 80.

            Vernon Adkison said “People down there [Georgia], for the most part, are taught manners and to be courteous and respectful.” That pretty much mirrors my own observations. Art, you appear to be an exception!

            Happy New Year.

          • Happy New Year, Art. MRAK followers are counting on your wit and wisdom in 2020.

          • …….nine decades with nine fingers, means one finger left standing……..guess we know which finger Art is holding up…….lol…

  • Art
    I came from down there (SW Georgia) and from the same era (born 1946).
    I remember things being hardscrabble. The area had not recovered from the depression.
    I cut out when I turned 17. I’ve dropped in to visit friends and relatives a few times throughout the years.
    I went down for 10 days last month and went out in the country where my grand dad used to farm.
    I was amazed at how prosperous the region seems to be. The roads, even way out in the country, were excellent. It seems to me, Georgia and the Carolinas have the best roads in the country these day whereas they used to have the worst.
    All the people I met were, without exception, extremely cordial and friendly. I’d kind of forgotten that. If you listen to the media hype you’d think things were boiling over with hatred In the South and that people were at each other’s throats. That’s absolutely not the case and wasn’t the case when I was growing up.. believe it or not, people got along pretty damned good. People down there, for the most part, are taught manners and to be courteous and respectful.
    I’ve been in other parts of the country where those traits weren’t much in evidence.

  • You my friend are not going away anytime soon. You are here to serve the ship!

    • Biscuits and bully beef.

  • Nice remembrances. Born in ’47 and raised on a dairy farm in rural Pennsylvania, I have similar fond memories of my youth. Plowing, planting, bailing hay, milking cows, milk cans(collector items now), dogs, fishing, hunting, and trapping were all part of my “education”.

    In later years when I heard the quote, “The only difference between a dairy farm and prison is you don’t have to milk cows in prison”, I’d relate the joys of my childhood and tell them that evidently they never heard of Angola Prison in Louisiana……..

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